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Sunday, October 22, 2006

NGAUS Legislative Update: 10/20/2006

What’s Happening In Congress?
Traffic in the District of Columbia has eased up a bit. Commuters have recently enjoyed a less hectic traffic jam getting onto the beltway and a bit quicker drive home in the evening. Why is this you may ask? It is because Congress is still in recess until the midterm elections. While DC seems a little less hectic, the Congressional campaigns remain vibrant as ever. The media across the nation has been overloaded with campaign advertisements and local debates. With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and immigration along the Southern border being among the major issues this election cycle, the National Guard will continue to be affected by the decisions made by these representatives in Washington.

Defense Authorization Update.
On Tuesday October 17th, President George W. Bush finalized the TRICARE benefits for Selected Reserve by signing the $532.8 billion John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007. It has been a long haul but, nevertheless a worthwhile fight. TRICARE coverage for all Guard and Reserve will be available no later than October 1, 2007. Another item of interest from the Defense Authorization was the National Guard Empowerment Act which has been referred to the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves. They are expected to submit a report to Congress on their findings no later than March 1, 2007.

Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) for Guard and Reserves.
Since 9/11 the Guard has become a much more operational force and as appropriate many benefits have adjusted to be commensurate with the service provided by the soldiers and airmen of the National Guard. The Montgomery GI Bill still remains an outdated and even an "unfair" benefit compared to the active duty Chapter 30 Montgomery GI Bill. Currently the MGIB Selected Reserve Chapter 1606 monthly rate is $309.00 while the MGIB Active Duty Chapter 30 monthly rate is $1,075.00. Not only are the monthly rates enormously different but, under Chapter 30, an active duty service member has 10 years from separation to use their MGIB benefits. A National Guard member looses all of their benefits as soon as their enlistment ends. While all of this information can be quite disturbing, there seems to be hope coming from Congress that this issue may be a priority in the 110th Congress. On September 27th a hearing on the GI Bill for Selected reserves was held in the Rayburn House Office Building. This hearing garnered much bipartisan support and even some legislative action. The very next day, on September 28th Representative Vic Snyder introduced H.R. 6250 “To amend Title 38, United States Code to recodify as part of that title the educational assistance programs for members of the reserve components”. As we all know the 109th Congress is quickly coming to an end and this bill is likely to not make it far with the amount of work left for the year. This bill does however give us hope that next year we can take this issue further and give the soldiers and airmen in the National Guard what they deserve, benefits that are equal to their service and their sacrifices.

Due to the importance of this issue to members of the National Guard, the NGAUS legislative staff will be preparing a draft resolution for consideration for the states as this year’s resolutions’ process begins in January.

Congressional Calendar:
    Nov. 7th Election Day
    Nov. 9th Reconvenes for introduction bills only
    Nov. 13th Congress returns to work
    Nov. 17th Thanksgiving recess target
    Dec. 4th Congress returns this week if necessary to complete work.
What’s Happening At NGAUS?
The NGAUS legislative team is currently working hard to produce the Legislative Objectives Booklet for preparation of the Federal Budget for FY2008.

Task Forces.
The NGAUS legislative team works directly with the eleven task forces which include the Personnel/ Benefits Task Force, the Medical Task Force, the Fire Support Task Force, the Combat Vehicle Task Force, the Combat Support/Combat Service Support Task Force, the Army Aviation Task Force, the C4I Task Force, the Engineer Task Force, the Airlift/ Tanker/ Rescue Task Force, the Fighter Task Force, and the C3I Task Force. The Task Forces are a very important resource for the legislative effort and we appreciate the work of the Chairman and members of the task forces. If you are not currently volunteering on one of our eleven task forces and feel that your knowledge and experience could be beneficial to one of them please visit our task force portion of the NGAUS website and contact the Chairman of that task force for information on how to get involved.

What You Can Do.
The countdown has begun; only 18 days left to polish up on the issues and the candidates before the 2006 midterm elections. As Election Day nears candidates will be campaigning in their districts trying to pull every last vote they can before the big day. Make sure to take advantage of this time and go to listen to them, hear their campaign platforms, and ask questions that you may have. Remember these candidates may be representing you in the near future. Share the Guard story with them. Every vote counts!

Published by the NGAUS Legislative Staff:
    Brig Gen (ret) Richard M. Green, Director
    Chris DeBatt, Army Programs
    Bernie Phelps, Senior Legislative Analyst
    Emily Breitbach, Legislative Analyst
For more information on NGAUS, check out our website: NGAUS.org.

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